Ask Marge

I’m a Germ Freak and I Hate Sharing Food. How Do I Say “No”?

published Mar 7, 2019
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Dear Marge,

I don’t really like sharing drinks or biting from someone’s food to taste it. All too often I am in the situation when a coworker or friend hands me their drink or something they’re eating and says, “Oh, you have to try this!” Once someone was so pushy I finally cut a piece from the end she hadn’t bitten into, and then she looked at me like I was a freak. Well, maybe when it comes to germs I am. I really don’t want to offend anyone — but I also don’t want to swallow other people’s saliva. What’s the best way to handle this in different social situations without insulting people?


Germ Freak

Dear GM,

You have every right in the world to refuse to take a sip or bite of someone else’s food. Frankly, anyone who insists after you have said no is just being rude and/or insensitive.

It is amazing how many people from all walks of life and in all kinds of situations ignore that no means no. I like to think that it is often because they’re missing social cues — something we’re all guilty of at times. The people who are insisting you take a taste are not doing so to be bullies — they just don’t get it.

That’s why I thinking skirting the issue, or being so polite your meaning isn’t crystal-freakin’ clear, makes it harder and more awkward for you. So while you shouldn’t have to give a reason for rejecting a bite of someone’s cookie, the truth is that it will make your life easier.

The next time someone offers you a bite of their cookie, I’d suggest you take a firm but polite and honest tact. Look them straight in the eye and say warmly, “No thank you, I am a germ freak.” (Have a follow-up unrelated sentence — about the gathering or the venue or anything else in the world — ready. Otherwise there could be a very uncomfortable silence.)

And GM, if saying that doesn’t stop them, send them to me and I’ll thwack their knuckles with my ruler.

— Marge

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